How to Make Money With Your Blog
I remember sitting in our game room upstairs when my phone chimed that special sound. I was playing a video game when it happened, and it changed my life.
Back in 2012, I was still working at Dell. In January of that year and without much of a clue about what I was doing, I started my blog.
At the time, I had no plan or intention of making money with my blog, but after a few months, I started to realize what was possible. Man, had I known then what I know now… things would've moved a lot faster.
Anyway, I'm not sure how long it was after I got started blogging, but I started to wonder how I could make money with my blog. While this was before I got into content marketing as a way to grow my business, I still was inspired by what COULD happen.
So there I sat in my game room, looking down at my phone, wondering if my ears were deceiving me, wondering if I'd really, truly, and actually made my first sale and earned passive income.
How To Make Money With Your Blog
By the way, if you haven't yet started your blog yet, click here for my step-by-step instructions (with screenshots!)
There are four ways to make money with your blog:
- Placing 3rd Party Ads
- Affiliate Referrals and Commissions
- Creating and Selling Your Own Product and Services
- Paid & Sponsored Content
What I'll do here is outline what each of these is, some the benefits and drawbacks of each one, and how you can get started with each. I'll also share which ones I'd start with and why, as well as some additional resources you might need along the way.
1: Placing 3rd Party Ads
One of the quickest to implement and easiest to monetize ways to make money with your blog is to place ads on your website.
Essentially, all you need to do is sign up for an ad service, place the embed code on your site, and sit back and wait. While it does get more complicated than that, making money with ad revenue is one of the simplest ways to get started.
How Ads Work:
When you place an ad on your website, you can get paid every time one of your visitors clicks on the ad. The ads can take people to products or stores they've looked at in the past. You get paid when the person clicks, regardless of whether or not they make a purchase. Also, some ads pay you when the ad is loaded and displayed on the page, and you get paid whether or not someone clicks.
To get started making money with your blog using ads, you need to sign up for an ad network. There are two main ad networks that, together, get over 90% of all online ad sales. There's also a third network that you can use in the same way, but that's technically an Affiliate Referral (see #3).
Let me explain.
Google AdSense – If you sign up for Google Adsense, you can copy and paste their ad code onto your site that will show ads based on your visitors' prior search history. These ads will pay you every time someone clicks the ad.
Amazon Native Shopping Ads – Before you can use Amazon's Native Shopping Ads, you must first sign up as an affiliate. However, once you do, you can add code to your website that shows products to people based on their shopping habits on Amazon. You'll make an affiliate commission only if they buy, but these ads are relevant to your visitor.
For example, what you see below is an Amazon Native Shopping Ad using the “recommendation” setting:
The reason I included Amazon Native Shopping Ads in this list is that, although their technically an affiliate link, the ads you place on your site can be automatically generated to suit your visitors.
Facebook Audience Network – If you have an app, you can leverage the Facebook Audience Network. However, at this time, Facebook doesn't have a way for you to use their code for ads on your website.
The reason I included Facebook in this list is that between Google and Facebook, you've got over 90% of the global online ad spend. While they don't have a website option for us yet, I wouldn’t be surprised if that was coming sometime down the line.
To make money with your blog using ads, you'll need lots of traffic, and you'll usually make less than $0.10 for every click on your ad.
2: Affiliate Referrals and Commissions
The next easiest way to make money with your blog is to recommend other people's products and services. As with ads, you copy and paste code on your site that displays an ad and tracks clicks. However, in the case of affiliate referrals, you only make money when someone clicks the ad or link and then makes a purchase.
How Affiliate Referrals Work:
As I mentioned above, with affiliate referrals, you typically only get paid when someone makes a purchase after clicking on your link. If they don't make a purchase, you don't make money.
To get started making money with affiliate referrals, you'll first need to sign up as an affiliate with the company you want to refer people to. Then you'll need to market that product as if it were your own.
Making money with affiliate referrals is a great way to make money with your blog because once you make the recommendation, your work is done. The company who made the product fulfills the order and provides support, and they pay you for sending them a new customer. Win-Win!
Common or Popular Affiliate Programs to Use:
Your web host – One of the most common affiliate programs to get started with is the one offered by your web hosting company. And they generally pay pretty well. I host most of my websites with GreenGeeks, and they pay up to $100 per referral. I also use and recommend WPEngine for larger sites (like ellorywells.com), and they pay up to $200 per referral (sometimes more).
Amazon – Amazon has a great affiliate program because they sell everything. Almost every product pays a commission, and Amazon even offers what they call “bounties” for when someone signs up using one of their services (like Amazon Prime) using your link.
Your email marketing service – Another affiliate program that's easy to get into is the one provided by your email marketing services. I've been using, loving, and recommending ActiveCampaign for a few years, and they pay a percentage (up to 30%) based on how much your referral spends with them.
Affiliate Marketplaces – If you're still looking for affiliate programs to join, you can sign up with an affiliate marketplace like Shareasale, Rakuten, or Clickbank. These affiliate marketplaces handle the affiliate programs for thousands of companies and provide a centralized location where you can sign up and find other resources like links, banners, and sidebar ads. For example, Shareasale is where I go for material to promote WPForms, WPEngine, and a few others. Affiliate marketplaces are also a good place to browse for what programs are out there that you could join.
BONUS TIP: To make money with affiliate marketing, you need to build a lot of trust with your audience. I only recommend products I use myself, love, and would recommend to my family, and this practice has served me very well.
To make money with your blog using affiliate referrals, you'll need not only traffic but traffic that trusts your advice and opinion. Affiliate commissions can range from less than a dollar to hundreds or even thousands of dollars per referral, depending on the product you're promoting.
3: Creating and Selling Your Own Products
The first two ways to make money with your blog are pretty easy to set up. The barrier to entry is low, but so is the payout amount. Whereas click ads pay pennies for clicks and affiliate programs pay (potentially) hundreds of dollars per referral, sales of your own products is where you'll really make money.
For example, I can promote Grammarly's proofreading and spell-checking software and make twenty bucks, and I could promote WPEngine managed hosting and get paid a few hundred. Or, I could promote my mastermind program and make $1200, or my coaching program and make $5000.
Selling your own products can make you more money, but it's a lot harder to create a new product than it is to recommend what someone else has already created.
How Product Sales Work:
Creating your own products can be broken down into two parts:
- See a need
- Meet a need
If you have a problem, solve it, and sell your solution. The bigger the problem, the more you can charge for it.
I started my Catalyst Mastermind Program because I had several people coming to me with the same questions about how to start an online business. So, I asked them if they'd be interested in meeting regularly with those other people, and they said yes.
The problem was that they didn't know how to start their online businesses and they felt alone. My solution was to teach them the basics of online business and connect them with other people who were in the same boat. Now that I know more, I charge more because I provide more value and solve larger problems.
2 Ways to Make Money With Product Sales
To make money with your blog using product sales, there are two things you can do. And, I'd recommend creating both as your business grows.
One Time Purchases
Selling a product one time is easier than selling a subscription. Not only is it to convince someone to pay once as opposed to signing up for repeat billing, but it's technically easier to set up too.
3 Things You'll Need
1: To sell products on your website, you'll first need to make your website secure with an SSL. GreenGeeks provides a free SSL for everyone who uses this link.
2: Next you'll need software to process sales and handle order fulfillment. For one time purchases, the easiest thing to do is to install the free WooCommerce Plugin on your site and connect it to your Stripe account with this addon (also free) for WooCommerce. After you install the required plugins, you'll need to create your sales pages.
Side Note: How cool is this? Free SSL from GreenGeeks, Free e-commerce plugin from WooCommerce, and free payment processing with Stripe!?
3: After you've secured your site and installed the software, you'll need a product to sell! If you're having trouble mapping out your site, creating your product, and getting started, good news! I teach all of this in my 8-week training course.
Selling something once is great, selling it every month is even better. Recurring subscriptions are often called the “holy grail” of business because they bring in money over and over again. If you're going to spend the time developing a product or service, creating the sales page, and building out the order fulfillment infrastructure, wouldn't you rather make money over and over again as opposed to selling the product just once?
Yeah, me too.
1 (More) Thing You'll Need
4: If you're going to sell subscriptions, in addition to the things listed above, you'll also need software that allows you to bill people over and over again. Selling subscriptions is a whole lot easier when you can charge people in the future without requiring your customer to add the product to their cart and make a purchase every time they need to pay their bill.
Since starting my online business over six years ago, I've tested and used several apps, plugins, and pieces of e-commerce software to handle my recurring billing. After all of the testing, I now use and recommend ThriveCart. They'll handle all secure payments, they'll handle the recurring billing, and ThriveCart even integrates with your email marketing and membership software to make sure the people who should have access do have access, and those who shouldn't don’t.
Common Types of Recurring Subscriptions
Membership Sites – One of the most popular ways to make money with your blog is to collect recurring fees from your members. Essentially, you'd create new content and publish it behind a paywall that requires visitors to either pay your fee or log in to access the content. Netflix is the largest membership site on the planet.
Newsletters – Another way to make money with your blog is to create a premium newsletter. I did this in January of 2018 when I started publishing Catalyst Monthly. For $99/mo., the subscribers to my newsletter get exclusive information. Use coupon code CM75 to get $75 off of your first issue!
Continued Access – If you're not publishing new content on a regular basis, perhaps you charge people for ongoing or continued access to what you've created in the past. This would be like your cell phone bill – service providers aren't doing anything new, but you've got to keep paying if you want to keep accessing their network.
Software Licenses – You could charge for people to use your software. Email marketing services do this. Google does this with their apps platform, G Suite. Microsoft does this with Office 365.
Payment Plans – While not technically a recurring subscription, you could offer payment plans to people who can't pay your full fee up front.
To make money with your blog using product sales, you might not need as much traffic, but you'll need more trust with your visitors. Before someone will buy a product from an individual, they need to know, like and trust you. They need to know who you are, what you're about, and what makes you qualified to provide a solution to their problem. They need to like you because people don't want to give money to an asshole. They'll need to trust that you can help them and that if they have an issue or complication they can come to you for further assistance.
Creating and selling your own products is a lot of work – that's why I recommend getting started with a $10 product. You'll also need to invest a lot of time and energy in marketing your products so people know what they'll get if they spend their money with you. Read this post to learn more about creating a content marketing calendar.
4: Paid & Sponsored Content
The final way you can make money with your blog is to charge for sponsored content.
If a company wants to put their message or wants to share the value of their product with your audience, they can (and should) pay for the privilege. People come to your blog because they want your advice and they trust your opinion. If you're going give someone access to your readers, listeners, and viewers who know, like and trust you, they should pay you.
The larger your audience is, the more you can charge. But as is with everything, only allow content on your website that you would endorse to your mom, sisters, or wife. I've said “no” to 99.9% of sponsored content requests, and the .1% I did allow ended up falling through because the company wouldn't agree to my terms.
How Paid/Sponsored Content Works:
Once your website gets big enough, and you can get enough traffic reading your content, you might catch the eye of companies who would like to place a sponsored post on your site. In my experience, these companies are looking for reputable backlinks.
However, I see a backlink as an endorsement. And since I only endorse companies and products I feel good about recommending, I turn down 99.9% of requests for sponsored content.
To make money with your blog by hosting paid and sponsored content is fairly difficult. Since almost anyone can start a blog, most companies who would pay you might as well post the content on their own site. Most of the content that's submitted to me isn't written very well, and it's not up to my standards.
There are all sorts of ways to make money with your blog and monetize your message. My suggestion is to develop a strategy, outline a content calendar, and use each of the paths outlined above.
Question: Have you made money with your blog? If so, what did you do? If not, will you try one of these strategies?